ABL Round Eight:  there's a bit on

AJ Mithen

3 January 2019

 

Welcome to 2019! It’s Week Eight of the ten week regular season and you all know what that means…...it’s time to farewell your favourite imports, fret about pitchers being shut down and keep a frantic eye on the standings as you try to work out the equations for playoff participation.

 

With only 12 games left it’s also time to start airing some questions:

 

We believe in Sydney, should we still believe in Brisbane?

Is Luke Hughes looking at a Helms Award?

Can Markus Solbach carry Adelaide’s pitching to the postseason?

Will the ABL’s decision on the Canberra v Auckland Game Three protest change everything?

 

I don’t have the answers, this is just the weekly preview piece. If you’ve got some thoughts, get over to the Alumni facebook page and we’ll chat there. Enjoy the weekend!

 

Do you have the answers? We’re keen to get your thoughts on ABL week eight. Let us know on the Australian Baseball Alumni FACEBOOK page. To debate these previews, make suggestions or to offer information, visit @AJMithen on Twitter. All efforts are made to show correct broadcast times, but for definitive broadcast information check the official ABL website.

 

CANBERRA CAVALRY versus SYDNEY BLUE SOX (Narrabundah)

 

Game 1:   Thursday 7.00 pm local time (Forecast weather: 34, possible rain)

Game 2:   Friday 7.00 pm local time (37, hot & sunny)                                   

Game 3:   Saturday 7.00 pm local time (34, possible storm)                                                   

Game 4:   Sunday 4.00 pm local time (28, shower or two)     

 

Traditional rivals, mutual enemies, big bro/little bro, good old fashioned aggro… However you look at it this will be a belter of a series when the Blue Sox head to Canberra.

 

Sydney showed their championship credentials winning a classic series against Brisbane but now they run into their bogey team. The Cavalry took their week two series 3-1 in somewhat of a surprise and there’s plenty riding on this weekend for the men in orange.

 

The Blue Sox now have a decent gap on Brisbane in the Northeast but there’s no room for laurel-resting, because the Bandits have a dream run home and Canberra’s bats seem to be warming ever so slightly.

 

Sydney’s hitters will be breathing a sigh of relief that Shota Imanaga is gone, but they won’t enjoy facing Steve Kent who is in fearsome form as Canberra’s main man. Last year Kent had some rough starts before lighting up late, this season he’s been borderline unhittable from week one.

 

There’s Major League talent headed to the rosters this weekend after Sydney announced they’d signed Jason Rogers, formerly of Milwaukee and Pittsburgh organisations. Canberra replaced Imanaga with Madison Younginer who played in the bigs for Atlanta. Both players are active for this series so it’ll be interesting to see who can make a quick impact.

 

Prediction: Canberra win… Just

 

It’s a tough call but I’ve got the home team. They need wins and although they couldn’t get a series win against Auckland, their hitting showed some flickers after spending most of the season on life support. They’ll need it to continue against the Blue Sox pitching staff.

  

MELBOURNE ACES versus PERTH HEAT (Melbourne Ballpark)

 

Game 1:   Friday 7.05 pm local time (42, late cool change)

Game 2:   Saturday 5.00 pm local time (21, shower or two)               

Game 3:   Sunday 7.30 pm local time (21, shower or two)                 

Game 4:   Monday 2.00 pm local time (23, partly cloudy)                     

 

It’s 1v2 for the lead in the Southwest as Perth head across to Melbourne. Both clubs are undergoing some roster turmoil as imports leave, new faces arrive and Managers well and truly earn their weekly sandwich.

 

Melbourne would be feeling slightly happier after securing the services of Josh Tols for the rest of the season. (I did an interview with Tols for the Alumni way back in April last year, but the audio file corrupted and I can’t recover it no matter what I try. Stay tuned, I guess?)

 

Tols has done a lot of work in the USA with Reading and then over in Venezuela so I’d be amazed if he goes out and delivers three straight 7 inning starts. Even so, he’s a fantastic addition to the Aces pitching and provides a massive boost to their postseason aspirations.

 

Perth got their home series against Adelaide to put a decent gap between them and the Bite, but they remain just one game ahead of second placed Melbourne and 1.5 games ahead of the current wildcard holders Canberra. 

 

Losing Tampa Bay imports Cristopher Sanchez and Joel Peguero will sting the pitching but it’s Chris Betts leaving which might hurt the most. Betts had hit in 7 of his last 10 games, going at .307 and was on a nice roll.

 

Last season the loss of their key imports all but ruined the Heat’s chances, but there’s enough quality in the likes of Kozma, Bojarski, Williams, Glendinning and co. to keep Perth on track in 2019.

 

Prediction: Split

 

The Aces got away with the series in Geelong but it was a near-run thing when it didn’t need to be. Perth may have reclaimed the top spot in the Southwest division, but one wrong step this weekend and they’re back in the mixer.

 

ADELAIDE BITE versus GEELONG-KOREA (West Beach)

 

Game 1:   Thursday 6.00 pm local time (40, hot)                    

Game 2:   Friday 6.30 pm local time (31, sunny)                     

Game 3:   Saturday 7.20 pm local time (25, partly cloudy)                 

Game 4:   Sunday 12.30 pm local time (28, sunny)               

 

Adelaide welcome Geeong-Korea to West Beach with one thing on their mind - wins. The Bite sneaking a win in the Sunday game against Perth has kept them in contention for the wildcard, but also kept an outside chance of a top two finish alive. Drop that game, and they may well have been too far gone.

 

Geelong-Korea had an entertaining series against Melbourne which ended in a series loss and the familiar tale of being close enough but not having the pitching to stay in the contest. They’ve given up the most homeruns (41) and walked the most batters (125) and they’ve got problems that won’t magically disappear for the last three weeks of the season.

 

Gun Adelaide starter Markus Solbach signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers organisation during the week, funnily enough with help from Melbourne Aces manager Jon Deeble in his capacity as scout for the Dodgers. It’s a great reward for a season which sees Solbach leading the league in strikeouts (63) and holding opposition batters to a .150 hitting average.

 

Prediction: Adelaide win

 

The only question is by how far. The Bite are presented with a great opportunity to drive right into the postseason mix. Can they take it?

 

BRISBANE BANDITS versus AUCKLAND TUATARA (Holloway Field)

 

Game 1:   Thursday 6.30 pm local time (29, possible shower)                                                

Game 2:   Friday 6.30 pm local time (31, partly cloudy)

Game 3:   Saturday 2.30 pm local time (31, partly cloudy)

Game 4:   Saturday 6.00 pm local time (31, partly cloudy)

 

Note: At the time of writing, Brisbane had won Wednesday night’s makeup game after round two’s washout in Auckland.

 

I owe the Tuatara and their Manager Steve Mintz an apology. I wrote last week that they were tiring in their debut season and were struggling so what do they do? They take two games to split in Canberra in a series where they were outscored 17-38.

 

Auckland have been showing grit all year and I won’t underestimate their steel again. While results haven’t gone their way, they’re a tricky customer who has the talent to develop into a future title contender.

 

Steel may not help Auckland here though. Brisbane are only one game ahead of Canberra and lost ground on Sydney with last weekend’s series loss. The defending champs aren’t going to pass up an opportunity to make hay while the hometown sun shines.

 

To wrap up their regular season the Bandits have this weekend against the Tuatara, a visit from Canberra and a trip to Geelong to face to cellar dwellers. As the season has shaken out it’s an incredibly friendly draw, the type that helps you chase down a 3.5 game gap at the top of the Northeast.

 

Prediction: Brisbane win

 

The five game stretch gives Brisbane a great chance to set about securing their postseason spot. Don’t forget though  - Auckland matched up well against Brisbane first time round and we can’t overlook their split in Canberra last week.